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Archive for the tag “religion”

Just When You Think They’re Not Listening…

Day one of my daughter’s high school religion class made for plenty of conversation around the dinner table yesterday. She was a little too concerned about religion class…well actually, she’s been concerned about geometry, lit, history, spanish and geography, but strangely enough she is so prepared for drama (imagine MY daughter dramatic?) She can’t wait for lunch and nutrition break and she’d be running with the cross country team at 6:00 a.m. except that her hair would be a “hot mess” afterwards. “This is the first week of school, mom!!” That’s my girl!!

Anyway, she really did have what she considers to be a legitimate concern regarding religion. She is attending a Catholic “College Prep” high school and as such, this school is super big on open communication, independent thinking, choices, responsibility and such, which is a beautiful thing and I have seen our son flourish in this setting in the last two years.

Yesterday during religion class kids spoke up about their beliefs and some were bold about the fact that they do not believe or weren’t sure what they believed, while there was the one who said he was searching. My daughter said it was strange to sit in a class room where there wasn’t unity in that area and she was grieved. “Oh boy,” I said…”welcome to the real world. Now that is a foretaste of college, for real!” They have been given an assignment to present a song, a poem, or story which would be “meditative” in nature and to end their presentation with a prayer. She said she was excited to share whatever the Lord puts on her heart. She asked me to pray for her.

When it was my turn to encourage my girl, I told her that it’s okay to question…how else would you find answers. It’s ok to be grieved, but not okay to judge where others are in their process. I shared with my girl that the good news is that she was tweaked by the conversation and the great news is that she is looking forward to her turn at bat and is praying about how best to present her beliefs.

Today as I recalled this conversation I prayed for my children, as they are closer and closer to being launched out into the world. I made a mental note to start discussing with them what they believe and why. I recalled that since they were too young to understand, I had been praying that they would not be tossed and turned by the philosophies of man or man’s doctrines, but that they would be rooted and grounded in God’s word. I recalled that I have prayed that they would eschew evil and do good; that they would be led by the spirit of God and not by their emotions or flesh; that the angel of the Lord would be encamped around them; that God loved them and had an extraordinary plan for their future; that they would know Him and be known by Him; they would love Him and serve Him.

I can’t help but feel a bit panicked at the thought of them leaving the nest. God, have I prepared them enough? Am I prepared enough to let them go? Will they remember lessons learned? Will they serve You? Will they make choices that line up with Your will, plan and purpose for them?

And then I am quieted, knowing that they are His children on loan to me and those areas that I could have been stronger in will be filled in by Him. I am at peace knowing that just when I thought they were not listening, they were and are. Thank You Jesus!

Led by the Spirit Lifer

imageslif•er
n. Informal.
1. a person sentenced to or serving a term of life imprisonment.
2. a person committed to a professional lifetime career in the military.

Lifer…I’ve heard people use that expression as it relates to their careers and I’ve also heard it used at a church where I was once a member.   After reading the above definition, I’m not sure that I much care for that term, actually!!

Recently, my husband commented that he really thought we would be “lifers” at our last church…so did I.  Our family is faithful.  We tend to stick and stay…same doctors, same supermarket, same dog groomer, same hairstylist (for me), you get the picture!  We’re pretty stable and loyal once we find a place to “hang our hat.”  As far as church is concerned, we are super vigilant and purpose to be loyal, not only because it is right and for our own good, but because there are two sets of eyes watching our every move and recording every decision.  We’ve never been the sort to church hop…we don’t even do much church visiting and if we do, our first stop is always our home church.  That’s just how we do it.

Last week my daughter was traipsing down memory lane and asked me how long we attended our previous church and with my response I started wondering if we would ever be lifers at a ministry.  For a split second (and believe me it was just that fast) I wondered if something was wrong with uprooting the family after just a few years…(5 years and two weeks to be exact:).

This past weekend I gained a whole new perspective on that lifer business as we witnessed Pastor Mike welcome a batch of newbies to partner up with him and the church to make a difference in the world, to grow, to share their gifts in what he phrased as “this Jesus movement.”  I love how he phrased that and I especially loved how he prayed over them.  He said something in that prayer that caught my ear…he prayed that for however long they were partnered at this church (whether a few years or many) that they would grow in their knowledge and love for the Lord.  Pastor Mike apparently does not expect these partners to be “lifers;” however, he does pray that during the time at the church, that they grow up and go out strong in order to make a difference wherever they go.

This morning his prayer came to mind again and I sensed the Holy Spirit showing me that I am a lifer only in the sense that I am committed to my marriage for life.  I would imagine if one goes into any situation with a plan for life (other than marriage), they would be excluding the possibility of being led by the Holy Spirit, thereby being limited by their planning.

Tonight when my girl comes home, I will explain this lifer deal to her and her brother so that they would understand the importance of being led by the Spirit of God…not emotions or people, or habit, etc.  I will reiterate that the Holy Spirit’s leading is always followed by peace and order and I will let them know that we will be officially making our new church our home church this summer.

I’m praying that we would hear the voice of the Lord and be led by His Spirit; that our decisions would be in line with His will, plan and purpose; that our intentions would always mirror His heart for those whom He places in our path and that He be glorified always and in every way…in Jesus’ name!!

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.
Psalm 37:23

Be Humble or Be Humbled!

ImageThrough every season of our lives as parents, the one thing my husband and I have remained consistent with has been our love and loyalty to Jesus…a vow I made to the Lord when I got born again and began believing Him for a child – promising Him that we would raise our child in the Word, by the Word.  At times during this journey, we’ve been accused of being no earthly good due to our heavenly mindedness, and we’ve also been accused of being everything from boring to fanatics, as well as crazy and in need of a crutch.  We’ve never blinked or waivered in our beliefs or in our decision to raise our children in a crazy, crutch infested, fanatic filled glory cloud …hehehe

This morning my husband and I were encouraging one another for the choices we have made as a couple and as parents.  We talked about the sacrifices we’ve made and are making and during that exchange he complimented me on how recently he’s been tuning in to various conversations I have been having with our kids.  I listened as he gave God the glory for his wife and family as he recounted the difficulty a family we know is having with their children.  With all my heart I know he was not comparing our families or the way we have chosen to raise our children; however, my mind went to the story in Luke 18 where Jesus spoke of the two men (a Pharisee and a tax collector) whose prayers were heard in the temple…the Pharisee thanking God that he (the Pharisee) was not like “others”…the robbers, evildoers, adulterers and even the other man in the temple, the tax collector.  He placed himself over these people judging himself by all the good works he commits.  (Sound familiar?) The tax collector (a “sinner” in a category all by himself); on the other hand, prayed and asked God to have mercy on him, a sinner.

I quickly reminded my husband that every good decision we have made has never been our own, but one led by the Spirit of God.  He has been the One who has led the way in our household as we have yielded to Him.  He has been the One giving us parenting tips and tipping us off to situations that have needed our attention.  The times we have tripped or slipped have been times that we have disconnected from our power source.  “Don’t get it twisted,” I said…”apart from Him we can do nothing.”  And here is where I inserted a warning, lest we think ourselves untouchable.

We all have heard of those families who have provided a wonderful, Christian example in their households; who have cared for, provided for, entertained, schooled, trained and equipped their children in such a way that would seemingly point to a bright future, only to have their child lift their leg on all that is good and instead choose their own way.  That’s reality folks.

I am not so out of touch that I do not realize that each time my children leave this house they are bombarded with all of the tantalizing things that this world has to offer them.  I’m not dumb enough to think that they are not influenced by their peers or by media.  I’ve not been blind during the times that they have attempted to pull a fast one, quickly reminding them that I was born at night, but not LAST NIGHT!

Where am I going with this?  Let’s pray for one another, for our children, for our children’s friends.  Let’s remain vigilant, steadfast and wide awake.  Let’s be merciful with one another, for at some point we might need a little mercy! Let’s remember that if not for the grace of God, that one who is suffering could just be one of us.  Let’s not get so comfortable that we find ourselves praying like the Pharisee, thinking that just because we are good little Christians, trouble won’t find us!  Let’s remember to be humble by choice so that we are not humbled by force.

Lord, that Your grace not be lifted; that we remain attached to the Vine, in tune with Your voice, our steps ordered and directed by You.  We pray a hedge of protection around our children and declare that no weapon shall be formed against them that would prosper; that their appetite for that which the world offers decreases while their desire for that which pleases You increases.  We pray that they would be that light that would draw those in darkness to You, Lord.  I pray for Your peace, Your wisdom, discernment and insight into Your ways as we train up this next generation.

God…Where Were You?

christian-in-Gods-handI, like countless people spent a pretty blue weekend.  Yet I, like the majority of those  who watched the horrific events as they unfolded was able to turn off the television set and for a few hours busy myself with errands and family matters.  Not so for those not only affected by the recent tragedy in Connecticut, but those who have been impacted by past tragedies (memories once again stirred, pain revisited)…Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora and many other senseless shootings that pepper our newscasts causing us to catch our breaths once again, hug our babies once again and sadly call out to God, in some cases, only once….again.

It really angers me to hear the same people who only call out to God in order to “damn” Him now blame Him, question Him, ridicule those who still believe in Him.  The same ones who disallow Him, exclude Him, want Him out of our schools, off of our money, separated from our governmental affairs are now wondering where He was.

I have a very good idea of His whereabouts…as seen in the actions of those in and near that school.  He was in the courage displayed by the principal to stare down the shooter and shout a warning to her teachers both verbally and in her wisdom to keep the intercom open giving her teachers time to protect their children; He was in  the courage displayed by those teachers who gave their lives to protect their children; who did not allow fear to paralyze them into nonaction, but were able to protect and distract their children; who were able to usher their children to safety; He was in the school secretary who set aside her fear in order to make the 911 call (that act alone saved hundreds of lives); He was in the first responders who like the heroes they are, ran into the building while others ran out; and He remains to comfort and console those whose lives are left shattered by this evil.

No one will ever be able to offer a satisfactory response as to why God would allow such an act .  I certainly could provide a scriptural response, but would it bring peace to those whose peace has been fractured?  Maybe in time…but the question would remain….why their baby?  Would it bring understanding to those who don’t believe?  How can you explain the unexplainable, make sense of the senseless, conceive of the inconceivable?  How can you console the inconsolable?  There are no words…not mine anyway!

I do know this….the enemy aimed straight at our hearts with this one.  It was only 13 years ago that Columbine was in the news…when the unimaginable stopped the nation in its tracks as we became voyeurs to that tragedy and it seems that the enemy took his “game” up a notch when evil struck at Virginia Tech and if that wasn’t horrific enough (that event garnering the title of the deadliest school shooting in our nation’s history), the enemy, lest we think it can’t get any worse, pays a visit to the most innocent of them all.

I hate that this past weekend I had to have a conversation with my kids about steps to take in the event of a public emergency; I hate that this world has become so dark; I hate that for months we will be discussing gun control and mental illness as if any human will be able to put a plug in the many holes that have been drilled into the fabric of this society.  I hate to say that I hate that God will once again be shelved after the media goes on to the next big calamity and the churches empty once again.

I hate that there are 20 families left having to explain the effects of evil to their surviving children; I hate that there may be families whose only child was stolen from them; I hate that it took 11 minutes for hundreds of children to have their innocence stripped away. I hate that there are 27 families (including that of the shooter) who are mourning during this Christmas season. I hate that there are families who are once again reliving their own personal nightmare.

This morning I did what I do every morning.  I woke my babies up, combed my daughter’s hair, got breakfast and did the most important thing I believe I could do for them….I laid my hands on each of them and prayed that the angel of the Lord would protect them, go before them; I prayed that the wisdom from above which is pure and peaceable would be in them and that no weapon formed against them would prosper.

I hate that 20 moms won’t be able to do the same today, but instead will be making plans to bury their babies.

I’m praying for God’s peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding…that it would guard our hearts and minds; that it would guard the hearts and minds of those affected by this tragedy and of those who have been on the mend….that they maintain their peace; that we would rise up as a nation and release the word of God over our government, our schools, our churches, our neighborhoods; that we not allow fear to disable us; I pray a hedge of protection around our children and loved ones.  I’m praying that the God of comfort would show Himself strong in the lives of those who are hurting; I’m praying for healing.  God, heal our land.

A Lesson in Humility (The last call)

Last-Call-Bar-Broadway-10-24-2009_5878-500x313“He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7 NLT

This is the Prophet Isaiah’s foretelling of the suffering of Jesus.  This ordeal begins with a false arrest, false accusations, a beating which should have ended His life and finally with an ending unbefitting a King.  What has always stood out for me were the words “he never said a word” – “he did not open his mouth.”  How is it possible to be falsely accused and tortured without at least attempting to defend oneself; to be given an opportunity to speak up, but choosing not to?

I am often reminded of those words when faced with a situation where I need to defend myself, especially in light of my background – being number 6 in a family of 7 where there was always something jumping off and where everyone in my family seemingly loved having the last word on a matter.  It’s difficult to hold your peace, especially with my upbringing where to remain silent was most likely an indication of guilt; when I have always been a scrapper, a fighter…where there has never been an altercation I’ve walked away from without administering that final shot.  It’s especially difficult when one’s meekness is mistaken as weakness, but that’s where the humility part reigns.

It has taken the utmost of self-control in my walk with Jesus to zip the lip and I must say that most times it’s been effortless, with the occasional instance where I’ve had to just about sweat blood not to “lay hands” on my adversaries or at least give them a piece of my mind…something none of us can afford to do!  I need all of my pieces.  Humility can be difficult…it stings, even hurts, but its rewards are longlasting.

And so there I was having written my brother what I thought was a compelling, encouraging letter replete with uplifting scriptures, my testimony and an admonishment to live life to the fullest, with a bit of a rebuke for wallowing in self pity.  (A letter most would receive and regard as one from someone who cares).  Not so with my brother who labeled me a nut, among other things, and was happy to call me long distance in order to serenade me with a perfectly pitched diatribe which included every cuss word in his extensive vocabulary.  We had been quite close as children…him the baby of the family born 19 months after me.  As adults we were making a comeback in closeness, as he had separated from the family quite a bit making appearances from time to time which ended many times in discord.  I was safe from the drama living so far away from the family, so we mainly kept in touch by telephone.  I was kept apprised of his rantings and was able to talk him down most times when he called me and our conversations always ended in an upswing.  I knew when I picked up the phone that this conversation would not end that way.  It would appear that I was the last stop on his cuss out the family tour.  He had never spoken to me that way and I was rattled.  I listened quietly waiting for the screaming to subside in order to tell him I was sorry he felt that way about me; I would continue to pray for him and that I was not going to allow him to disrespect me any further and with that I hung up.  He called right back and began his message (I did not pick up) with “You always have to have the last word, don’t you.”  He continued his barrage, ending it prophetically with “you’ll never see or hear from me again.”

…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  Luke 6:27

I did just that.  I prayed for my brother.  I had compassion for him.  My once vibrant and handsome, hilarious (we are a funny family and he was the king pin) and brilliant brother was no longer there.  The difficulties he had endured during his life, the losses he had sustained from which he was never able to recover, caused him to turn to alcohol as an elixir for his pain.  He was a master at being stealth so the family was caught by surprise to discover that his condition was life threatening.  A friend later recounted a conversation my brother had with his doctor who warned him that his life would be cut short if he did not stop drinking.  My brother had the nerve to respond by telling the doctor that he enjoyed a glass of wine from time to time with his dinner and asked whether that would be acceptable.  The doctor’s response was blunt…”the only table you’ll be pulling up to will be one at the morgue if you don’t stop.”

As I prayed for my brother, the Lord revealed a need that he had.  I contacted my sister (the one I knew remained in good standing with him) and I hatched a plan to send her some cash for her to forward to him.  I asked her to leave my name out of it knowing that his pride would not allow him to take the gift. She did so and a short time thereafter she received a letter from him thanking her and remarking that out of all of his sisters, she was the most loving (always was) and most sensitive to him.  My sister felt bad receiving that letter and wanted to expose the truth, but I forbid her from doing so.  I was surprised that I felt that way, actually.  Who wants to give someone else the credit for your good works?  My sister had also been talking to him about the Lord and so to me it was just as well that he believed it came from her.

Weeks later we received the news that our brother was hospitalized in dire condition.  I wrote about it HERE if you’d like to read and be encouraged:)  My brother passed away and after the shock had worn off, when I finally had some time by myself en route to Indiana for his funeral, I closed my eyes and ran through a host of memories from our childhood, our high school years, that amazing summer of ’78 when our family had solidified its closeness, (through a haze of marijuana and kegs of beer) – sorry Jesus:).  I laughed at the times he would hand out gifts for Christmas and tell each of us how much they cost.  I recalled the sports talk radio guys who would be on air giving him shout outs and asking for him to call in.  He was so smart and funny.  I remembered the joy he experienced when his daughter was born.  I skimmed over his difficult years (the death of his beloved baby boy being his death blow) and I settled on the last call…not the one that took him out…the one aimed at taking me out (our conversation). I remembered the first thing he said and the words he closed that awful message with that he left on my answering machine and realized they were in fact prophetic!!

1.  I did have the last word; and

2.  I never saw him or heard from him again.

It was hurtful to be spoken to that way by someone who was supposed to love you.  Growing up he always had my back and would have fought King Kong if he had to defend me.  It made me angry that he disrespected me that way.  I had only been kind to him when others weren’t so much.  I had entertained his foolishness when others had grown tired of him; I was so undeserving of his wrath.  With everything in me I wanted to strike back, but I held back and then only with the grace of God was I able to pray for him; to bless him.  Humility stings, it does hurt, but self control is necessary in order to maintain one’s peace so that one could hear clearly.  In the end, my reward came knowing that after all the hurt he inflicted, I was still able to hear, obey, forgive and bless and I did all of that never opening my mouth…but I did have the last word. 😛  I love you R…I miss you!

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A Foolish Mentor…A Wise Mentor…And a Mentee Who Knows the Difference

Mentoring is a dynamic relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in her/his life. – John Mallison, author of Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders

My children remain in the “train up a child” phase of their upbringing (I dare say they may always be in that phase), but I’ve noticed my husband and I sliding more and more into the role of mentor to them. There’s still a whole lot of correction, but it seems the training, encouraging, teaching aspect has gotten deeper; the conversations more profound and heartfelt. When there is a need for correction I recognize the importance of treading softly over their heart so as to not kill their spirit. Being constructive, not condemning…adding some sweetness to an area of difficulty during correction to keep their heads up and in the game. That takes skill because I could be a bit passionate and semi dramatic (well more than semi) – and one of my cherubs is sensitive and requires my approval while the other is built to play poker! Mentoring can kill a spirit…this I know for sure.

I was a party to a relationship (strange way of phrasing that, I know) that had the underpinnings of a mentor/mentee deal. After knowing her from a distance, I had an opportunity to get to know her up close finally. I liked her from far away and grew to care deeply for her as I got to know her more intimately. I would have done just about anything for her (and just about did), always gladly. I defended, encouraged, prayed for, covered and served, expecting nothing in return. I thought this was a forever friend until the wheels came off the bus sending the bus careening out of control. (I told you I’m dramatic, right)? hehe

Why am I suddenly hearing the music to a Temptations song (Papa was a Rolling Stone)? There was something in the air during that time, and our conversation turned into accusations being hurled at me..instead of being asked questions, I was being told about something I had done, places I had been, people I had been with; my motives were being questioned and I was compared to people from her past whose actions were determined to be shady and unworthy of trust. I was stunned and couldn’t even form my thoughts in a way to present a coherent defense. I squeaked out a few words and the conversation ended with a knife and a plunge. I was told I was being “corrected” and then accused of having lost my prayer edge. (Oh man, them there was fighting words to me.) Somehow nothing that was said was more hurtful than that. I was sentenced to prayer and given times to do it. Um…huh? Here’s the part where the Lord just closed my ears to the rest of what was being said…He does that sometimes to protect me (or maybe the other party:)! Thanks, Lord. I stepped away from that assault conversation knowing that what had just occurred was not constructive and so not healthy; it was not correction…it was an attack, straight up and the accusations…all of them were false. The only thing I took away from that beat down conversation was that I, in fact, needed to pray…pray that I could get away from the situation as quickly as possible with no casualty count.

I was reminded of this incident this past week when I ran into a woman the Lord used to help me become the woman warrior I proudly am today. Someone who embraced me, poured into me, encouraged me, corrected me (not attacked and insulted me); promoted me in ministry…someone who believed that God’s hand was on me. I saw her and just about cried as I made my way to her. We hugged and held each other and hugged some more and after class we gravitated toward one another again and caught up, promising not to lose contact again and hugging some more.

Seeing Mrs. Bishop reminded me that I have been blessed with some rich relationships, strategically placed in my path to push me along in my destiny. Women who have taken the time to speak life into me; women who have seen in me what I probably would not have seen as clearly; who have celebrated my rowdiness and have loved me enough to reel me in. Strong women…no nonsense women. Those who taught me how to be quiet enough to hear the Lord; who taught me about the importance of submission; how vital a teachable spirit was. I knew the difference between correction for growth and correction as a weapon and I learned that under Mrs. Bishop.

I clearly recall telling the Lord that I would serve where the need was greatest…”Lord, use me,” I said. Well, shortly after that declaration I was approached by a leader asking me if the Lord had been speaking to me about serving in the youth ministry, where the need was great. “Uh, that would be a no,” I said and quickly high tailed my way outta there. I felt bad enough to call her when I got home and left her a message saying that I would do it if she really needed me. I didn’t hear back from her…Whew!!! I thought! I went before the Lord one more time and said “okay Lord, the next time I’m approached I’ll submit…I won’t seek a position, Lord…You’ll have to drop it in my lap, okay..in Jesus’ name.” That Saturday as I was running out of church leaving church after a women’s fellowship (I wasn’t the hang around and fellowship type:) I was followed by one of the female ministers who said “Mrs. Britt, you need to serve in the prayer room. There will be training next Saturday..report to Mrs. Bishop.” “Uh, yes ma’am”..and so I began my time of service in the prayer room under the leadership of Mrs. Bishop.

It took no time for me to realize that this was my calling and before long I found myself being promoted to “lead counselor” where soon my leadership-ability would be tested…my ability to make a judgment call and then deal with the consequences of that call (could I handle correction?) Would I pass the test? After service one cold and rainy night I was met in the prayer room by a woman who was desperate for prayer. During our conversation she divulged that she no longer wanted to live and the more she spoke, the more I realized that this situation was way over my head. I looked around and found that I was alone in the room, so in the absence of counsel, I made a split second decision to call for our Pastor who was steps away (something we had been told never to do). As I was preparing to leave that night Mrs. Bishop caught up to me and laid me out. Correction wasn’t even the word for the tongue lashing she gave me. I took it, apologized for overstepping my boundaries and walked away confused because I knew that I had heard from the Lord to consult with Pastor. I left that night deciding not to take offense at the way I was spoken to and I felt the peace of God. I saw Mrs. Bishop a few days later and after service, she approached me and knelt down next to where I sat. She took my hands and looked me in the eyes and asked me to forgive her for the way she had spoken to me. She told me that I had heard from the Lord and that I had made the right call and that Pastor had acknowledged the seriousness of the situation in that had he not intervened, there was a great chance that that woman would have done harm to herself that night. It took great humility for her to apologize and I loved her more than ever at that moment. She and I grew even closer after that day and when she became President of the women’s fellowship, she asked me to be her Vice-President.

The lessons I learned from my mentor were invaluable, many which have remained with me. How important it is to be humble (not to think highly of oneself); how freeing it is to submit, to yield; how empowering it is to forgive and seek forgiveness; how valuable it is to remain teachable and correctable; how vital it is to know when you have heard from the Lord and to stand your ground; how necessary it is not to allow those who lead you to break your spirit.

I was so grateful to the Lord for having Mrs. Bishop and I cross paths again. One of the women I lead in small group witnessed our “love fest” and approached us and after I introduced her to the woman who was instrumental in teaching me how to pray, she said some really nice things about me, to which Mrs. Bishop responded…”Arlene had it in her all the time…God is using her.” That was amazing coming from her…it was real coming from her…I believed it coming from her. Thank God for true mentors!

“It is essential that mentors be loving enough to correct (Proverbs 27:5-6) and caring enough to affirm (Hebrews 10:24).”

“I TOLD YOU SO….”

“And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart…But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”  Genesis 6:6,8

God’s eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth in order to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.  His eyes settled on Noah who was doing something right.  What could that have been?  We could guess by the way he was described, that he had a relationship with God and spoke of Him freely; we could surmise that as a family man, he ran a tight ship (no pun intended, but it works:); we see that he was obedient and most likely mocked and judged; probably considered the neighborhood loon.  Chances are better than great that he was accused of being judgmental, critical, hateful; and if he would have had a Facebook page, I know he would have had only four friends…maybe seven.  But guess what…Noah was right!  I wonder if as he floated away he screamed out of one of those portholes….”I TOLD YOU SO!!!.”

I was pontificating with my sister the other day  on the phone the other day with my sister, the same one I would spend hours on the phone with cussing and carrying on about our views on life and stuff and during this conversation we touched on how far we’ve come from those days…how much our views on life and stuff have changed only because we have changed…thank God, we have changed! 🙂

I lived hard for the devil before I said yes to Christ, so it’s not surprising to anyone who knew me back then to see me live hard for Jesus now.  I was passionate about every view I pontificated about; held them hard and fast and would step up to whomever disrespected (or even disagreed with me).  A pastor I know once talked about having “bull dog faith” and he related the story of how strong his dog’s jaws were when they locked onto something.  He would play tug of war with him and his dog would be lifted off of the ground in a spin and no matter how fast he was spun, he was not going to let go of that rag.  That was me before Jesus and not much has changed, except I’m on the winning side now!

The part of the scripture above that has stayed with me since we began our study on Genesis in our bible study is how grieved God was with man.  I was touched at how God had such high hopes for man from the beginning only to have man’s incessant desire to oppose God; man’s disregard and disrespect of God; man’s desire to be like God, keep him from experiencing life as God had intended.  How sad that not much has changed and how daunting the feeling that I have that a reset or “redo” is due.  Last week we touched on the Tower of Babel and how unity which opposed God’s direction had to be broken up, but how telling the strength of unity is when God Himself said, “Indeed, the people are one and they have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.”  Oh that we (His people who are called by His name) could say that to be the case regarding the full counsel of His word now.

How grieved God must be to see the body of Christ fractured once again, looking anything but united.  How grieved must He be to know that the Bible, His word speaking to us, remains the most popular book never read; never obeyed.  How grieved must He be to hear His people say, God’s choice will be the President,  when He’s given us the ability to choose and to do so with His heart and His will in mind as WE choose.  Last I heard, God doesn’t vote.  How grieved must He be when He raises men and women of the word to declare His word fully and they don’t or are afraid to do so for fear of losing what doesn’t belong to them anyway; and even more grieved when His word is twisted and not even believed by those He’s raised to shepherd HIS people!  How grieved must He be when we thumb our noses at His word which is really clear on marriage; on killing; on Israel, the Apple of His eye.  How grieved must He be?  Only time will tell just how grieved.

I’m praying…more fervently than ever that the remnant would arise and declare His word over our nation; our families; our churches; God’s people (all of them); that the righteous would rise up and be heard; that we stop grieving God, whose hand shall remain on our country; on our families; our churches; His people (all of them) as long as He can search the world and find someone He can show Himself strong on behalf of, whose heart is loyal to Him…will that someone be you?

“If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.  NOW my eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer offered in this place.”  2Chronicles 7:14-15 AMP

Why Would God Allow That?

“Why would God allow that to happen?”  That to me is the most difficult question I’ve been asked as a Christian.  It’s easy to respond with the typical, “God’s ways are not our ways;” “God is sovereign;” “The mysteries belong to God;” or even “I have no idea, ask God” – each response acceptable but the day I fielded this question, I knew that any of those responses wouldn’t fly with this broken, young Christian woman struggling to find her way as a new believer.  I knew her continued relationship with the Lord hung precariously on whether I’d be able to offer some kind of clarity to something that had hurt her so deeply and threatened to drive a wedge between her and the Lord.

And so I sat in my kitchen with Elizabeth as she flat ironed my hair, chatting away.  The conversation soon turned serious as she grew comfortable enough to drop her guard, allowing me access to a situation which threatened to alter her perception of the love of God.  I began to pray as her story spilled out….

Elizabeth was a single mother struggling to make ends meet.  Her ex-husband was paying child support which she greatly relied on, although it was still barely enough to sustain her and their daughter.  He used child support as leverage in order to get his way at every turn.  He was due to pick his daughter up on a Friday and didn’t show up when he said he would so Elizabeth put her down for the night.  The phone rang at around 9:00p.m. or so and it was him saying he would be picking her up by 10:30.  Elizabeth explained that their daughter was already in bed and he could pick her up early the next day.  He grew belligerent and insisted that he be allowed to at least see her and after a shouting match, Elizabeth relented.  She hung up the phone angry that she had given in, and feeling uneasy about him coming over.  When he arrived his motives were made clear to Elizabeth when soon after he gained entrance, he began to interrogate her regarding her male friendships.  Their exchange became violent, first with a push, which escalated to a slap and further escalated with her being raped by him.  No, she didn’t press charges…she still relied on his support and he was her daughter’s father, but imagine the shock and then utter devastation to discover that as a result of that act of violence, she was pregnant again.  There was no way she could afford another child and the thought that this child was unwelcomed pierced her heart.  She considered abortion as an alternative but before doing so, she went to her church for counsel, where she received the most ungodly counsel imaginable.  She was told that since this child was not conceived in love, it would be okay for her to terminate the pregnancy.  She left that session as confused as ever; however as confused as she was, she just knew that advice was wrong.  Unfortunately, stress did what her conscience forbid and she miscarried that baby, which took care of her immediate “problem,” while leaving her hanging on the ledge where her faith and trust in God were concerned…and here I was at the end of her story handing her tissue, poised to field the most difficult question ever!  “If God loves me, why would He allow that to happen to me?”

While she was speaking, I was praying,  seeking and inquiring of the Lord how best to respond to his daughter.  I asked her simply if she at any time had a “feeling”– church folk call it an “unction,” that she should stick to her decision not to allow him to come over that night.  “Yes,” she said.  “Did it get stronger when he appeared at your door?”  She said that by the time he appeared at the door, she was downright scared to open it.  I explained to her that I believe that was the Lord speaking to her…warning her… through that “feeling” and through her fear to open the door.  She was pensive for a few minutes and truthfully, with every fiber within me, I believed I told her correctly, but  still held my breath waiting for her reaction.  She accepted that explanation.  I also showed her how on point she was to second guess the “advice” she was given by the church counselor and explained to her how God was speaking to her in that situation.  I encouraged her telling her that God loves her; He’s speaking all the time and though she may not have heeded his warning that one fateful night, she does hear from Him, as evidenced by her decision not to terminate her pregnancy.

God is always speaking and warning, but if we don’t have “ears to hear,” then He’s speaking to Himself.  Elizabeth floated in and out of my life just that quickly and I think of her often, hoping that she’s been able to strengthen her relationship with the Lord.  She is a trophy of His grace and I pray that she is lifting His name up and drawing other women, who like her have faced difficult times, have made difficult choices, but can say that God loved them enough to show them how to be slow to speak and quick to listen; how to be led by His Spirit; how to trust Him for all that is lacking; how to rely on Him, His strength, His wisdom, His power to sustain and maintain them.

“For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.”  Psalm 117:2 NIV

A Perfectly Woven Web

When God has His sights set on someone, there’s no changing His mind.  He will move heaven and dip into hell to free the one who’s lost; He’ll leave the 99 to go after the 1 and He’ll use you to do it.  I received a prayer request about a lost dog and I found myself praying like never before that Comet would be found.  “Lord, show Yourself strong on behalf of this situation; prove that You have heard their cry and bring back Comet.”  Well, He heard; He moved and Comet is back at home.  I revisited this prayer request and once again marveled at its request-or.  I smiled as I recalled how God put us together, once again recalling with amazement the perfectly woven web He created…too perfect to be regarded as coincidence.  So perfect, it could only be God!!

Earlier this year, I received a 911 call from Victoria, a sister from church, about her friend (who had just started attending our church) who had absolutely stretched her to the point where she felt her counsel would be fruitless.  She said she called me because of the counsel I had given her in the past and she looked up to me, etc. etc…you see where this is going too, huh?  She wanted to know if I knew “someone” who could minister to this fiery little Puerto Rican.  Victoria knew exactly what she was doing, but as I listened I wondered if I would be up for this challenge, since I was still licking my wounds from a hurt I had sustained.  (God saw this as a perfect opportunity for me to finally disengage from my pity party…hearing myself encourage someone else using His word would no doubt shake me out of my funk.)  Of course, I took her number and called her and we spoke for quite a while and though she quietly listened, I felt that I needed to see her and sensed a bit of urgency since Victoria informed me that she was off to see a “spiritual healer” later that week.  I switched some things around and met her at Starbucks where we met over coffee, tears and transparency.  She released a whole lot about herself, her past, her present and her uncertain future, all pointing to someone who was desperate, scared and wanting to change…needing to change, but not having a clue where to begin.  As she was talking there was a familiarity about her.  I figured it was that we were both Puerto Rican…both fast talkers (not in the shady way) and I knew all about the fire I was picking up from her…that stubbornness…strength…loyalty…genuineness…love of family.  Let the weaving begin…

I wanted to switch channels to give her a minute to recover so I asked her about her family…where they lived currently…where they were from in Puerto Rico.  Her response almost knocked me out of my chair.  Her family is currently living in Chicago (I have family spread out in Chicago and Indiana).  Her extended family on her mom’s side lives in a small (I mean super small town) in Puerto Rico…the kinda small that says that if you meet someone who is from there, the chances are great that you are related somehow)…well as it turns out, my parents are both from this small town as well (they are NOT related, thank you very much:) and we’ve narrowed it down to where we must be related on my dad’s side since we share the same family name.  Get outta here!!  God’s got jokes indeed.  Now, it has become personal and I am fully invested.  We say our goodbyes and I promise to keep in touch…Oh, you bet I did!!  And so the weaving continues..

I got home and called my girlfriend who was busy preparing her message for a weekend retreat where she would be sharing her testimony.  She was excited at the prospect of my having met a potential family member and joined me in awe of that divine appointment.  She shared what she would be speaking on and as I listened I realized that her testimony was one that my newly acquired family member, “Mary,” needed to hear.  Rashayna would be able to speak to her and touch those areas that I would be unable to reach because she had the benefit of experience and had been to those places from which Mary was struggling to be freed.  Rashayna suggested that I invite Mary to the retreat (DUH, me) and I jumped on it!!  Remember Victoria the girl who called me to counsel Mary?  Well, I was reminded that she and Rashayna were former roommates and I later discovered that all three of these women worked for the same organization at one point.  Mary had heard of Rashayna.  Coincidence?  Nope…just part of that perfectly woven web.

I got “Mary’s” voicemail and left her a message inviting her to the retreat, telling her that I know that she’d be blessed by it.  I explained that I realized that it was super short notice and that she shouldn’t allow finances to affect her decision about going.  She would be covered.  I hung up the phone and prayed for her.  I knew the enemy was working overtime to keep her isolated.  I felt that she was probably regretting sharing all that she had with me and was most likely wishing that I’d just go away.  Rashayna and I began to pray for her.  Mary and I traded phone calls and we finally connected, she being prompted to trust me by Victoria (whose phone I was absolutely blowing up) trying to ensure that she get ahold of Mary since I couldn’t seem to get her to answer.  Persistence and I are one:)

I had to now brace myself for the retreat.  I wasn’t really too keen on going myself.  I didn’t want to process any pain in front of anyone…me and my hurt little self could handle it on our own as we usually did.  I knew this would not be the case now that Mary had agreed to join me.  I still wasn’t keen on going but now I had a purpose…oh silly me — who am I to think I have anything under control…the web was half way completed.

I couldn’t have been happier seeing Mary come out of the grocery store pulling her luggage, a look of uncertainty in her eye.  Her outward look matched mine; however, I wore mine on the inside…

I’m going to pause here and pick it up tomorrow.  I don’t want the length of this one to scare anyone away.  🙂

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.”  Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.  Than you will seek Me., inquire for, and require Me (as a vital necessity) and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found  by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity…”Jeremiah 29:11-14a AMP

I Wanna Live on Holy Hill in a Sacred Tent

Today during my prayer time, I came across Psalm 15.  I love a good checklist and tend to tell the truth (in my head) while I’m reading that checklist.  If I don’t like my answers, I just keep on flipping the pages for something more pleasant, but those answers stay with me.  OY!!!

v. 1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?  Who may live on your holy mountain?  (I’m good here, because I want to…I really do!  Oh Lord, may I?)

v. 2 The one whose walk is blameless (uh oh), who does what is righteous (subject to interpretation), who speaks the truth from their heart (I’m feeling pretty good now, kinda);

v. 3 Whose tongue utters no slander (ummm…), who does no wrong to a neighbor (I don’t try to), and casts no slur on others (uh, Proverbs 31 anyone?) – If this entire verse could be removed, I’d be feeling a lot better!

v. 4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord (I’m working on despising the deed not the doer…that’s good, right?); who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind (I got this…no longer clenching my jaw!);

v. 5 who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent (piece of cake).

Whoever does these things will never be shaken.

So, am I a candidate to dwell (remain, abide, stay) in His sacred tent or on Holy Hill?  Wanting to is not good enough, it seems.  (“If you are willing AND obedient, you will eat the good of the land.” Isaiah 1:19)  Having great intentions won’t get me where I wanna be, either!  That stinkin’ tongue!!  The truth is we all have work to do.  The bar is set so high lest we walk around puffed up monitoring other people’s checklists while we move into pride, marveling at how perfect we are and shunning those who just don’t measure up.  Humility goes a long way!

I was checked this morning and am thankful for ears to hear and a willingness to allow Him in to shed His light on the areas in most need of adjusting so that I can humbly claim my spot in the best campsite ever…that sacred tent on Holy Hill!

Hiking shoes (check); rod – to swipe at any enemies trying to impede my progress (check); blinders – can’t afford to be distracted (check); mind stayed on Him (check); pressing forward.  Here I come, Lord…save me a spot!!

“Lord, set a guard over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips; give me ears to hear and a tenderness for those You’ve placed in my life so that I may speak words of life and hope, kindness and mercy.  Give me the grace to quickly forgive and the ability to walk in the agape kind of love that bears up under anything and everything, overlooks wrongdoing, keeps no record, believes the best and endures without weakening…in Jesus’ name.”

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